With Trump’s cabinet now stocked, it’s time we focus on what’s coming, not what’s already happened.
Sufficient executive decisions have now been made for us to make an informed prediction about what kind of administration Donald Trump is going to lead. I say it’s time to divorce campaign rhetoric from reality and examine things as they are, not as we feared they might be.
Cabinet and department nominations the U.S. President-elect has made over the past fortnight and a rational investigation of his chief adviser (Stephen K. Bannon) are fertile ground for such an assessment.
For my Benjamins, Donald J. Trump will herald an era of “hyper-capitalism” the likes of which has not been seen since the gilded age of the late 19th century. The hallmarks of this period will be unparalleled income inequality, an explosive stock market, a forsaken environment, exceptional relations with foreign great powers (at the expense of all regional minnows), and potentially, at some stage, the inevitable cratering-in of an economic system that when accelerated to this extent experiences 1929-style exhaustion.
Trump critics are welcome to continue advancing Clinton campaign talking points vis-à-vis bigotry, misogyny, racism, Russophilia, white nationalism, the alt-Right, fake news … and on and on … staking their opposition to the 45th President on those issues. Doing so, however, would be to attack the shadow not the body, and fall for misdirection while missing the prestige. I believe Trump will eviscerate the very government departments that constitute the pillars of FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society.
Here are the President-elect’s key department picks:
Health and Human Services
Tom Price (seeks to dismantle Obamacare and privatize healthcare)
Rick Perry (said he wanted to eliminate the department of energy)
Housing and Urban Development
Ben Carson (does not believe government should be responsible for housing)
Environmental Protection Agency
Scott Pruitt (climate skeptic, believes the EPA inhibits business interests)
Betsy DeVos (does not believe that education has a federal mandate)
Andrew Puzder (against minimum wage and collective bargaining)
What each of these nominees has in common is an unflinching disdain for the very department they are being tasked to run. They all believe the government has far too much influence and, in some cases, they explicitly advocated for the elimination of the department they are nominated to run.
To understand why Trump is staffing the way he is, people should watch the documentary film written, directed, and produced by Steve Bannon: Generation Zero. In Bannon’s magnum opus he distills his chilling vision of America, and as you watch it you’ll see an eerily familiar roster of Trump supporters emerge one by one throughout the film as contributors.
Bannon has two mortal enemies: progressivism and regulation—and he blames the government for both. He’s a traditionalist and believes in capitalism absent any government intervention whatsoever. If this begins to sound familiar it should; Stephen Bannon represents the heart and soul of the Tea Party movement that most seem to have forgotten. Watch this clip of Bannon talking at a Tea Party gathering and you’ll get a sense of his guiding principles, for those who thought the Tea Party had evaporated along with Sarah Palin are sorely, sorely mistaken. All those voters who came out for Trump this election cycle (that the media was calling alt-Right, racist, “deplorables,” etc.) were actually just Tea Party, “don’t tread on me” loyalists. Trump, anointed by Steve Bannon, became the scion of the Tea Party and opened the White House to a cabal of ideologues who detest government, revere “pure capitalism,” and see the progressive agenda as little more than a federal intrusion into the private sphere.
The thing I like best about Rex Tillerson is that he has vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
If preservation of today’s America is what the people truly seek, then they’ll have to cease chasing geese through the reeds of Donald’s swamp; set aside the Russia cudgel, let go of the white supremacy club, and put the misogyny mace down for a moment. People should be trying to protect the sanctity of institutions and defend the idea that government has a role in making society better. Trump is going to start making some forceful arguments that regulations are akin to bureaucracy and bureaucracy analogous to waste and fraud. This is the rhetorical Trojan Horse to start shuttering parts of the government. Opponents must be united behind a defense of business regulation. The case needs to be made that when left to their own devices, business and industry have no means whatsoever of checking their own excesses. Start channeling great 18th century philosophers: “Men should never be judges in their own cases.”
But be aware this needs to come from the people. This must be a grass-roots endeavor. The political establishment will do nothing to prevent this institutional metamorphosis. Both the Democrats and Republicans will create deliberate subterfuge (Russian hacking consternation) while allowing the worst of Trump’s nominees to sail through Senate confirmation. Due to the political infestation of lobbyists and donor money, there will be a bipartisan effort to empower corporate America. That there has been virtual silence on Trump’s pick of a climate skeptic to head the EPA, contrasted with wall-to-wall coverage of Tillerson’s (Secretary of State) supposed close ties to Russia, tells you everything you need to know. Expect a huge floor fight over the Secretary of State and his nominated deputy, John Bolton (who might be Trump’s sacrificial lamb), with only lip-service resistance paid to the six nominees listed above.
It’s time to divorce campaign rhetoric from reality and examine things as they are, not as we feared they might be. The hallmarks of this period will be unparalleled income inequality, an explosive stock market, a forsaken environment, exceptional relations with foreign great powers, and the inevitable cratering-in of an economic system that when accelerated to this extent experiences 1929-style exhaustion.
Over the next four years, Donald Trump will use a booming stock market as cover for dismantling government regulations, reducing institutions to echoes, and setting in train the kind of hyper-capitalism that always terminates at the same dismal station. If the Left doesn’t pick its battles effectively, they are going to be spread so thin they will be powerless to prevent the evisceration of everything they hold dear. I’m not talking about women’s rights, LGBT rights, minority or immigrant rights; I’m talking about the fundamental premise that government actually has a role to play in the welfare and protection of society. We need to be clear in our thinking to see Donald for what he really is. Trump is not a fascist, he’s an uber-capitalist. He’s an accommodationist, not a protectionist. He’s no white nationalist, but a non-ideological, opportunistic pragmatist, one who hitched his wagon to a group of Tea Party fundamentalists in exchange for the keys to the kingdom.